Author Page | Page 21 | Media Matters for America

Brian Powell

Author ››› Brian Powell
  • Von Spakovsky Concocts A New Legal Standard To Make His Case Against DOJ

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Hans von Spakovsky is continuing the feeble Pajamas Media (PJM) campaign against Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division with a fourth column in a series highlighting the allegedly "liberal" resumes of individuals hired by DOJ. PJM's oft-repeated (and just as often unsupported) claim is that Holder and the DOJ are engaged in "politicized hiring" that is "nearly unprecedented in scope and significantly eclipses anything the Bush administration was even accused of doing."

    Today, Spakovsky spends five pages tirelessly reciting what he believes are the liberal affiliations of new career attorneys at the Civil Rights Division's Special Litigation Section. He then concludes:

    No one is suggesting any of these individuals' activist backgrounds disqualifies them from working as attorneys in the Civil Rights Division. The point is that such liberal bona fides appear to be a prerequisite for employment in the Division -- there is no other explanation for this. These resumes are an example of a legal doctrine that law students learn in their first year: res ipsa loquitur -- "the thing speaks for itself."

    Res ipsa? Perhaps Spakovsky has forgotten what he learned in his first year, but res ipsa loquitur is a common law negligence doctrine which presumes that a harmful act could only have occurred as a result of a defendant's carelessness, even if the plaintiff has no direct proof of the defendant's carelessness (one of the prototypical cases is a scalpel left in someone's body while the patient was under general anesthesia).

    But Spakovsky isn't accusing the DOJ of negligently filling their rosters with liberals. He's alleging that they purposefully considered a candidate's liberal credentials as a precondition for hiring them into the Civil Rights Division. In his words, "None of this is an accident."

  • Von Spakovsky's Baseless Allegation Of DOJ Politicization

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Pajamas Media has been scandal-mongering for months with hollow allegations of politicization in the hiring process at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Today, Hans von Spakovsky published the first piece "in a series of articles by Pajamas Media about the Civil Rights Division's hiring practices since President Obama took office." He claims the supposed tainting of the hiring process by the DOJ's Civil Rights Division under Obama is "nearly unprecedented in scope and significantly eclipses anything the Bush administration was even accused of doing."

    Spakovsky and PJM are responding defensively to allegations that under President Bush, political appointees at DOJ's Civil Rights Division illegally considered applicants' political leanings when making hiring decisions. These claims have been backed up in a report completed by the DOJ's Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility, who declared the hiring activity a "viola[tion] of federal law."

    For months, PJM has been waging a campaign alleging the Obama administration is committing the same sins. The crusade continues today, with Spakovsky's piece outing the so-called "new radicals" in the Civil Rights Division's Voting Section. Instead of bolstering his argument, however, he's instead just highlighted the many exemplary qualifications and relevant civil rights law experiences the new employees have brought to the table. Indeed, von Spakovsky's complaint often appears to be that the Civil Rights Division has hired attorneys with backgrounds in civil rights.

    Specifically, Spakovsky has published the employment histories of the 16 new hires in the Voting Rights department of the Civil Rights division. He rails at length about the alleged liberal affiliations of the DOJ hires, detailing their past civil rights work with groups like the ACLU and NAACP, but his complaining notably lacks any accusation or evidence that DOJ was hiring unqualified lawyers or excluding applicants based on their political predilections - something the Bush administration was found to have done.

    The question, after all, is not whether DOJ hired too many conservatives in the Bush administration or too many liberals in the Obama administration; the question is whether either of those administrations improperly used an individual's political leanings as a pro or con in their hiring deliberations. Spakovsky offers no evidence that the DOJ is doing this other than the circumstantial claim that it's more likely than not that politicization took place because so many liberals have been hired.

  • Wash. Times Doesn't Know What They're Reporting About

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ & BRIAN POWELL

    The Washington Times is 0-2 in their assessment of the Justice Department's handling of military absentee ballots. As we pointed out earlier, the Times inexplicably and repeatedly swaps the names of their story's primary source (a GOP activist) from Eric Eversole to "Eric Loveland" in their article criticizing the DOJ. While this mistake may seem superficial, the substantive distortions within the piece are anything but. The Times uses partisan sources and cherry-picks quotes and statistics from a Military Voter Protection Project report to construct the façade of a Justice Department scandal.

    First, the Times identifies Eversole (or "Loveland," if you prefer) only as "MVP [Military Voter Protection Project] founder and author of the report" and as "a veteran and former Justice Department official." Left out is how he was hired to work in the DOJ's Civil Rights Division during the period when the Bush administration was illegally considering political affiliation in the hiring of career attorneys. The Times also fails to mention that Eversole went on to advise Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign, join the Republican National Lawyers Association and write articles for right-wing websites.

    The Times' second source is Hans von Spakovsky, another discredited Bush-era DOJ hire who writes for the conservative media outlets National Review and Pajamas Media and is a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation (the Times at least acknowledges his position at Heritage). With sourcing like this, any pretense of a reasonable news report about a department overseen by a Democratic president is thrown out the window.

    The statements the Times attempts to pass of as facts are similarly untrustworthy. Toward the end of the article, the Times claims that DOJ suggested that the state of Maryland should "prevent troops from voting," an allegation so absurd only a Times subscriber could believe it:

    In some cases, the [DOJ] recommended that a state prevent troops from voting. In Maryland, the Justice Department told the state to send ballots for federal elections only because ballots for local elections would have violated the 45-day deadline, the report says.

    "They were basically telling Maryland that they could disenfranchise these voters' rights to vote in local elections," Mr. von Spakovsky said.

    Not even close.

    DOJ did not tell "the state to send ballots for federal elections only," as the Times claimed. What actually happened was that Maryland originally sought a waiver (provided under the MOVE Act of 2009) from the federal requirement that absentee ballots be sent to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before the election; elections officials believed that they would not have been able to certify the results of the state primary elections in time to finalize the ballot by the deadline.

    Maryland later withdrew its waiver request, instead proposing to send ballots containing only federal races to military and overseas voters before the Act's 45-day deadline, and a complete ballot including federal and state races after that ballot had been finalized. As federal law places requirements only on the distribution of ballots for federal elections, both DOJ and the Department of Defense indicated that this proposal would comply with the law.

    As this letter from Maryland's election administrator makes clear, DOJ did not tell the state to do this; Maryland "worked to identify a solution" and submitted the proposal to DOJ and DOD personnel for approval. And yes, contrary to what the Times would have you believe, local elections boards began sending full ballots to military and overseas voters on October 8, 2010.

  • Investor's Business Daily Ignores Reality To Build A Case Against Eric Holder

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    These days, Attorney General Eric Holder can't seem to scratch his nose without eliciting complaints and criticisms from media critics on the right. As the Public Employee Enemy #1 of anti-Obama conservatives, he's faced false allegations of racism, cover-ups and partisanship. Their latest charge? That he's recreating the historic subprime mortgage crisis that began the nation's economic collapse.

    Last weekend, Paul Sperry at Investor's Business Daily (IBD) wrote a lengthy, context-free article condemning the Justice Department's investigations of banks whose lending policies discriminate against minorities. According to the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, the department received more referrals from regulatory agencies "of matters involving a possible pattern or practice of discrimination" in 2010 than it's received in at least twenty years. The DOJ investigations into the potential violations of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and Fair Housing Act by several banks have led to a number of settlements.

    Sperry's IBD article is written in a way that inaccurately suggests the terms of the DOJ/bank settlements are both inherently dangerous (because they will lead to another housing crisis) and unfair (because banks are being strong-armed by the power of the federal government and the threat of being labeled racist into offering risky lines of credit). Along the way, the reporter ignores the facts and the law. Most striking is the article's tacit implication that being forced to serve minorities is inherently equivalent to being forced to engage in unwise lending practices.

    The first misleading premise pushed by Sperry is that the Justice Department has asked banks to "relax their mortgage underwriting standards" and that this type of "government-imposed lax underwriting" was the cause of the housing boom and subsequently meltdown. From IBD:

    In what could be a repeat of the easy-lending cycle that led to the housing crisis, the Justice Department has asked several banks to relax their mortgage underwriting standards and approve loans for minorities with poor credit as part of a new crackdown on alleged discrimination, according to court documents reviewed by IBD. [...]

    Such efforts risk recreating the government-imposed lax underwriting that led to the housing boom and bust, critics fear.

    First, DOJ settlements explicitly state that banks are not obligated to lend to unqualified individuals, only that they must begin providing services to minority communities they've allegedly ignored. As their agreement with Midwest BankCentre states, banks are not required to "make any unsafe or unsound loan" and must offer services only to potential customers "whose credit history does not present an unacceptably high risk to the Bank or indicate a history of fraudulent transactions."

    Second, regardless of the agreements between DOJ and the banks, Sperry's fundamental argument -- that government affordable housing initiatives caused the financial crisis -- follows a years-old conservative myth that is not supported by the facts.

  • Eric Bolling Hosts Tom Tancredo To Rant About "Black Thugs" And Guns

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Eric Bolling, host of Fox Business Netork's Follow the Money, invited former congressman and failed Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo onto his show to discuss the ongoing investigation into Fast and Furious, the controversial operation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Tancredo, a notoriously intolerant fear-monger, didn't take long to shift the conversation to the topic of race, calling African-American Attorney General Eric Holder "the guy that refuses to prosecute blacks -- black thugs who intimidate people at the polls."

    Tancredo's statement is an obvious reference to the long-discredited New Black Panther Party controversy, a voter intimidation case featuring African-American defendants that some conservatives say were let off the hook by the Obama administration. His claim, which echoes a wider conservative narrative that President Obama's administration is racist, is demonstrably false.

    In fact, the DOJ obtained a judgment against an African-American defendant in the NBPP case after the Justice Department under President Bush decided not to pursue criminal charges against the NBPP. The Obama DOJ has also requested injunctions against black Democratic Party officials in Mississippi who were found to have discriminated against white voters.

    TANCREDO: Eric Holder knows. No other agency of this government is so politicized. Remember this is the guy that refuses to prosecute blacks -- black thugs, who intimidate people at the polls.

    There's another, even more I think, insidious -- potentially more insidious -- reason for the, for Operation Gunwalker. I think they wanted guns in Mexico so they could eventually say, "look at the flood of guns from the United States into Mexico causing all this violence. Let's do something about guns in the United States." I think that was behind all of this.

    In typical Tancredo fashion, he adds fuel to the fire when he followed up his racially-infused comments with the latest conservative conspiracy theory, claiming that the Obama administration is purposefully allowing guns to enter Mexico in an attempt to gain popular support for tighter gun laws in the U.S. Conservative proponents of the far-out notion admit that they "do not have any direct evidence" of its veracity. Far be it for someone like Tancredo to let something as trivial as "proof" stand in the way of a good sound bite.

  • C-SPAN Showcased Virulently Anti-Gay Radio Host

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    C-SPAN, the network known for its ad-free broadcasts of congressional proceedings, purports to present their content in a balanced manner. Their mission statement reads:

    C-SPAN is a public service created by the American cable television industry: To provide C-SPAN's audience access to the live gavel-to-gavel proceedings of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and to other forums where public policy is discussed, debated and decided -- all without editing, commentary or analysis and with a balanced presentation of points of view.

    It's surprising, then, that C-SPAN has repeatedly simulcast the show of Iowa radio bigot Jan Mickelson, an apparent birther who is virulently anti-gay. In a speech at a conservative event last month that was broadcast by C-SPAN, Mickelson said that because President Obama "has left out 'equally endowed by our Creator" in his recitation of the Declaration "even after he's been told several times that he's an Arab" for doing so, his actions must be "deliberate" and are therefore "evil."

    On Tuesday, C-SPAN dedicated two and a half hours of airtime to giving Mickelson's show, which he describes as "fairly right of center," a national audience.

    It's unclear how a hateful voice like Mickelson's fits into the thoughtful, balanced and bipartisan tone that C-SPAN and its corporate funders say they are seeking to undertake. In a statement to Media Matters, C-SPAN declined to comment on Mickelson's rhetoric, but acknowledged that the network has aired Mickelson's show ten times as a part of their efforts in "simulcasting local radio stations... with the intent of giving national audiences a sense of local debate and discussion."

    So for C-SPAN, broadcasting Mickelson's record of vitriol is justified since it is just part of the local flavor of Iowa. Below the fold are just a few of the incendiary remarks C-SPAN disregarded when deciding to provide a national platform to Mickelson's "local debate."

  • REPORT: Fox Gave 88 Seconds To Debunking Of Their New Black Panther Story

    ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    In the fifteen days following Megyn Kelly's June 30, 2010, interview hyping the unsubstantiated allegations of right-wing activist J. Christian Adams, six Fox News shows devoted 95 segments and more than eight hours of airtime to the phony New Black Panthers scandal. By contrast, those shows have devoted a total of two segments and 88 seconds to the Justice Department's release of the results of an internal investigation clearing DOJ officials of any wrongdoing or misconduct in that case.

  • Special Report's Contrasting Previews Of The King And Durbin Hearings On American Muslims

    ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    On the night before Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) was scheduled to hold hearings on the civil rights of Muslims in America, Fox News aired a segment on Special Report that promoted a right-wing group's attacks on Durbin for his appearance in what they described as "a controversial picture... that critics say undermines the hearing." By contrast, the program did not point out Congressman Peter King's (R-NY) extensive efforts on behalf of the Irish Republican Army before his hearings earlier this month on Muslim radicalization.

  • Revenge Of The Bush DOJ: Mukasey's War Against The Obama Administration

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ & BRIAN POWELL

    Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey has regularly used platforms on the op-ed pages of major newspapers and as a guest on cable and broadcast news programs to serve as an attack dog seeking to undermine President Obama, his administration, and in particular Attorney General Eric Holder on a wide variety of issues. Most recently, Mukasey has slammed the Obama Justice department for bringing a discrimination lawsuit against a school on behalf of a Muslim teacher who resigned after her request for time off to make hajj, a religious pilgrimage observant Muslims must take, was denied.

  • Fox Mocks DOJ For Bringing Lawsuit To Defend Religious Practices Of Muslim

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ & BRIAN POWELL

    Bill O'Reilly, Jeanine Pirro, Gretchen Carlson are ridiculing and attacking the Justice Department for suing a school district for discrimination on behalf of a Muslim teacher who resigned after her request for time off to make hajj, a religious pilgrimage observant Muslims must take, was denied. But the Justice Department is acting on the recommendation of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which previously engaged in a similar lawsuit during the Bush administration, and even Fox's Megyn Kelly has acknowledged that the DOJ may have a case.